Nearly two million Pennsylvanians have filed for regular unemployment compensation since the pandemic-related mitigations began in March 2020. That’s a lot of people – and although some have returned to their old jobs, many may never return to their previous positions. Considering that many individuals were unemployed or underemployed before the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s time to rethink some of the ways our region approaches job readiness. We need a different approach that builds and supports trusted community relationships and collaborations, such as those embraced by UPMC Health Plan and UPMC’s “Pathways to Work” initiative.

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Career Transitioning During and After COVID

UPMC Health Plan understands that well-being isn’t just about what happens in a doctor’s office. There are many factors, including stable employment and career satisfaction, that increase an individual’s ability to access medical care, ultimately contributing toward a better quality of life.

That’s why, as the largest non-governmental employer in Pennsylvania, UPMC and UPMC Health Plan are committed to creating opportunities for workforce development and fulfilling employment. As a system, UPMC has thousands of job openings available at any given time, and the UPMC Health Plan Pathways to Work program aims to support members and individuals in the communities we serve with personalized support to better access job training and navigate the hiring process.

Such supports, when coordinated with effective, on-the-ground community organizations, can reach not only those who experience job losses due to COVID, but those who are looking to re-enter the workforce as vaccinations increase and the economy further opens.

“Whether you’re an individual on Medicaid, an immigrant, someone who was formerly incarcerated, or you’re seeking family-sustaining career training and employment opportunities for other reasons, our Pathways to Work initiative is here to help,” said Dan Lavallee, director, UPMC Health Plan Center for Social Impact.  “We are constantly communicating and working with community organizations to find ways to connect their members in need to career opportunities that help connect individuals’ practical life experiences to relevant, fulfilling health care jobs.”

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Why Community Partnerships Are Important

Getting people back to work takes resources and support. Employment agencies and workforce development programs are key to serving our communities and those in need. The UPMC Health Plan Pathways to Work program is an example of why community partnerships are critically important as they seek to connect job seekers to job opportunities that fit their needs and skills.

In collaboration with local workforce development board Partner4Work and funding from the RK Mellon Foundation, job-seeking persons enrolled in Medicaid will be connected to PA CareerLink® re-employment services. Here, they will prepare for stable careers that can lead to family-sustaining wages. If you or someone you know is looking for work, the Pathways to Work program may be able to help. The program is available to all individuals in the community who are unemployed, underemployed or have barriers to work and will create a pipeline to careers throughout the region, including at UPMC. We often have roles that span a variety of industries and skillsets, including nursing support, customer service, maintenance, warehouses, environmental services, food service, and more.

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Pathways to Work is also a community resource for professional development. We refer interested individuals to workforce development opportunities in their communities. Through our relationships with workforce and employment organizations, individuals can enroll in programs that prepare them for a new career — whether it’s with UPMC or not! Through these programs, participants get to develop their skills in medical coding, environmental services, food service, various trades, and other areas.

Through this program, UPMC Health Plan and UPMC trained and hired more than 400 individuals who were previously receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) support or Medicaid coverage for full-time employment with benefits in the past calendar year.

Richard Garland, Director, University of Pittsburgh, School of Public Health, said, “Pathways to Work is a bridge toward a better life for many. The program is able to meet individuals where they are in life and help build the structure needed to compete in today’s workforce by giving them marketable skills.”

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How Being Employed Affects Your Health

The job opportunities provided through the Pathways to Work partnership go far beyond providing individuals with a stable source of income and benefits – there are also numerous health advantages to having a secure, fulfilling job.  Those who are unemployed are more likely to experience chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, cancers, diabetes, and mental disorders compared to those who have the security of employment. While hiring is the main goal, job coaching and confidential support – along with developing pre-employment skills – are the keys to long-term success. Pathways to Work exists to help individuals – especially individuals from underserved communities, those on Medicaid, TANF and others who have barriers to work.

Want to Learn More?

It’s simple: If you or someone you know is struggling to find employment, email pathwaystowork@upmc.edu or call 1-833-526-6271 (TTY: 711). Representatives are available Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Wednesday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.